By Steve Keating
BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Australian swimmers have swept the podium, broken world records, set milestones and won a mountain of medals at the Commonwealth Games pool but all anyone wants to talk about is a supposed ‘love triangle’ with golden girl Emma McKeon at the centre.
Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers and singer turned swimmer Cody Simpson (once romantically linked to American rocker Miley Cyrus) are the other two players in this frothy affaire de coeur that has been tabloid fodder for some time in Australia.
Chalmers has been largely portrayed as the villain, the jilted lover out for revenge, including attempts to sabotage Simpson’s Olympic ambitions.
It did not take long for the soap opera to surface at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre, with Chalmers flying into a social media storm on Day One of the competition on Friday after some media reports accused him of snubbing former-girlfriend McKeon on the medal podium following Australia’s triumph in the 4×100 metres freestyle mixed relay.
After months of denying any rift with his two team mates, a fired up Chalmers has gone on the attack in Birmingham, labelling the reports as fake news. He accused the media of having no regard for the athletes’ wellbeing and said mentally he had “hit rock bottom” and was prepared to leave the sport.
But the 24-year-old was back in the pool on Monday, winning the 100 metre freestyle and claiming it had taken, “all his courage to stand up and race”.
“For me these last 48 hours have been hell, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” said Chalmers after collecting his third gold of the Games. “I almost started crying and I’m not an emotional person.
“It is a bittersweet feeling for me, instead of enjoying the moment it is almost a big sense of relief to be honest with you.
“I just hope no one has to go through what I’ve had to over the last 48 hours.”
With the salacious ‘Wagatha Christie’ libel trial involving Coleen Rooney, wife of former England captain Wayne Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, spouse of England soccer player Jamie, having run its course, the love triangle involving the Australian swimmers has been filling the void.
“Sensational love triangle with Miley Cyrus’ former pop star boyfriend, Olympic legend and bitter ex hits Commonwealths”, screamed The Sun.
Every multi-sport event has something to hang on other than medals.
At the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, it was the doping storm surrounding teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, at the Tokyo Olympics it was the spy novel like defection of Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya.
Four years before that at the 2016 Rio Summer Games it was American swimmer Ryan Lochte’s fake robbery and bungled cover-up and in Birmingham it is McKeon, Chalmers and Simpson.
McKeon, who became the most successful Commonwealth Games athlete of all-time when she scooped her 12th gold medal on Monday with a win in the 50m butterfly, had dated Chalmers last year but they have since split up and she is now reportedly dating Simpson.
Chalmers has repeatedly denied any falling out with his team mates but has been unable put a stop to the gossip.
“I know I have done every single thing in my power to make that situation as good as possible,” said Chalmers. “The lies and false truths getting put out there. It’s nowhere near the truth at all.
“We are great friends.
“I am just grateful to be a part of the team and sharing that with every single team member.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Birmingham. Editing by Pritha Sarkar)